Data Helps in Plotting Strategies
Bryan Visscher has been in the facilities management business for ten years. He now serves as the Director of Maintenance and Operation for the Wenatchee school district, which has twelve schools and three administrative/operations buildings. In 2005, he enrolled in the BOC program and was introduced to Portfolio Manager, the EPA’s ENERGY STAR online tool for energy benchmarking, now widely used by facilities managers to “rate” their building energy usage against that of similar buildings.
The Portfolio Manager program was fairly new then, and BOC was Visscher’s first exposure to it. When the district received its second year of ENERGY STAR awards, he then approached his local utility rep, Conservation Engineer Jim White of Chelan County PUD, and they worked together to track energy use trends at the various schools and administration buildings. This was also White’s introduction to using the program and he quickly became a fan, encouraging its use to other non-residential customers and promoting the tool on the PUD’s web site. They put in a year’s worth of back-data to be able to do an apples-to-apples comparison of how the schools were faring
Results showed that a couple of the schools were in decent shape, a little above-average nationally. For those schools it was easier to bring them closer to ENERGY STAR status. The District already had a good energy conservation “base” focusing on the everyday types of steps they could take to promote energy efficiency, such as turning off unnecessary lights or ensuring that doors or windows weren’t open when heating or cooling systems were being used.
What was far more enlightening was the information on the schools that were seriously underperforming. Much to his dismay, Visscher discovered that a couple of the schools had ratings in the single digits out of the ENERGY STAR scale of 1 to 100. The district’s M&O staff of about 60 includes in-house specialists in HVAC and electrical. At one of these underperforming schools, they worked with a contractor to review and adjust the HVAC digital control system in detail, checking operating schedules and areas of excess usage, and the savings are about $11,000 annually. “It’s not a top performer yet, but now it’s an above-average building,” says Visscher.
“This year, six of our fifteen primary facilities received ENERGY STAR awards and I learned that there were only 168 award winners in all of Washington State, so I think that’s pretty good. Portfolio Manager has allowed us to identify the poor performers and we are approaching those in different ways, with some good strategies,” Visscher says. “The utility company has various rebate programs and I’m working with Jim on some potential lighting retrofits.”
Also offered from Chelan PUD is a general energy savings plan called Resource$mart, in which up to 70% of a project’s cost can be reimbursed based on savings numbers. One of Visscher’s projects is trying to get more CO2 sensors installed to regulate outside air against actual load versus an established-hours setting. “Winter temperatures can go as low as 10 degrees or less and in summers, as high as 105, so it’s important to be able to fine-tune this.” The Resource$mart program was used to fund 70% of a retro-commissioning project at one of the poor performing schools which is now showing solid progress.
$100 million for education energy investment funding for energy efficiency projects is also coming from the state, with $50 million from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OPSI) and the balance from the Department of Commerce. “Having the energy-use data on hand makes it a lot easier to apply and qualify for project funding, especially when the results would be dramatic, as they would be with the poor performers,” says Visscher. With stats in hand, strategies are that much easier to fulfill.